Report Overview

While schools remain open, disruption caused by the pandemic is continuing, with staff absences impacting on the quality of learning offered to students, and both pupil and staff absences forcing some back to remote learning.

Over the course of the pandemic, research from the Sutton Trust has found that children’s experiences of remote learning varied substantially across different socio-economic backgrounds, with the poorest pupils in state schools being hit hardest by disruption.

A new survey of teachers with Teacher Tapp provides an overview of how schools are coping in the first term of 2022, looking at levels of staff absences across different school types and regions, access to devices in the context of a renewed demand for remote learning and the key issues facing schools during this period.

29%

The proportion of state school teachers reporting that more than 1 in 10 colleagues were absent due to covid.

28%

The proportion of state school teachers saying non-teaching staff are covering lessons due to staff absences.

1 in 10

The proportion of teachers who said that staff were absent due to lack of access to covid tests.

Key findings

Staff absences due to covid

  • Over half (53%) of teachers in state schools reported 1 in 20 or more of their school’s staff are currently absent due to covid, with 20% reporting that 1 in 10 or more are off.
  • Absence rates are higher in state than in private schools, where just 12% of teachers said 1 in 10 or more of their school’s staff were absent.
  • Staff absences were more pronounced in the most deprived state schools, which were two and a half times more likely than private schools to report that one in 10 or more of their staff were absent (29% vs 12%).
  • Absence rates also differed by region, with 35% of teachers the North West, and 28% in Yorkshire and the North East reporting 1 in 10 or more staff absent, compared to just 12% in the South West and 11% in the East of England.
  • Across the country, roughly 4% of teachers reported they were isolating due to covid this Monday (10th January).

Challenges facing schools

  • Teachers were asked about other issues they are currently facing during this wave of the pandemic. The most common issue cited by state schools was non-teaching staff having to cover lessons due to staff absences (28%), with almost 1 in 10 (8%) teachers saying that more than one class was being taught together due to staff shortages.
  • Despite a recruitment drive for ex and retired teachers, 25% of state school teachers reported their school was struggling to find cover for absences.
  • 8% of teachers said that staff at their school were unable to come in due to a lack of access to lateral flow or PCR test. This was more of an issue in the most deprived state schools, where it was reported by 10% of teachers, compared to 5% in the most affluent state schools.

Digital access and remote learning

  • As a consequence of this disruption, with both staff and pupils off due to covid, 25% of state school teachers said they had prepared materials for online learning in the last week.
  • However, 29% of state school teachers reported more than 10% of their school’s isolating pupils still don’t have access to devices for remote learning. This figure was 48% in the most deprived state schools.
Recommendations
  • The government should urgently ensure that all pupils have access to a device and an internet connection for remote learning.
  • All schools should be provided with adequate funding to pay for cover for absent staff.
  • There should be additional investment in the government’s education recovery plan, with further support targeted at disadvantaged pupils to ensure that attainment gaps do not widen further.
  • Colleges, universities and employers making decisions on the basis of exam grades this year should give extra consideration for those who have suffered the greatest impacts of the pandemic on their learning.